Migraine disorder is?a neurological disease characterized by recurring headaches and other symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. It’s the third most prevalent illness in the world, and affects about 12 percent of the global population. Migraine episodes? can result in? severe, debilitating head pain, but they’re more than just a bad headache.
According to Rick Godley, a general otolaryngologist based in Rhode Island and president and founder of the Association of Migraine Disorders, migraine is caused by an overly reactive and sensitive nervous system, which can be genetic, triggered by external factors, or a combination of both.?
Jan Lewis Brandes, a neurologist and board member at the National Headache Foundation, says people have to meet at least two of these criteria to be diagnosed with migraine: pain that’s only on one-side of the head, is pulsing or throbbing, and a moderate to severe headache that is made worse by routine activity (for example, bending over). People also have to have one out of four associated features: nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, or sound sensitivity.?
While a migraine diagnosis requires certain symptoms, people can experience migraine differently. Here’s every type of migraine, and how to tell them apart.
Deena E. Kuruvilla, a board-certified neurologist based in Connecticut and an executive board member of the Association Of Migraine Disorders, says doctors first categorize migraines according to their frequency, because the treatments can vary widely.
Episodic migraine, she says, which is characterized by fewer than 15 headaches a month, is the most common type. Usually, Kuruvilla explains, episodic migraine is easier to treat, because it comes with fewer headache days. “If [the patient is] having less than four headache days a month, we’d probably only use abortive medication, unless each individual attack is very disabling,” she says.?
When a person has 15 or more days of migraine a month, that qualifies as chronic migraine, which can be much more disabling. For people with chronic migraine, a doctor may prescribe one or multiple preventative medications to be taken daily, along with abortive medications to stave off headaches when they start to come on.
According to Joseph Feuerstein, a board-certified family medicine physician specializing in integrative medicine based in Connecticut, migraine can be divided into two categories, depending on whether or not they have an accompanying “aura.”